Fox Riverby Emilie Richards
Daughter of a legendary Virginia hunt master and aristocrat, Julia Warwick grew up in a world where Thoroughbreds and foxhunting are passions, not pastimes. Julia finds her own passion in Christian Carver, a talented young horse trainer. But when a beautiful heiress is murdered and Christian is convicted of the crime, a pregnant, desperate Julia marries a friend who… See more details below
Daughter of a legendary Virginia hunt master and aristocrat, Julia Warwick grew up in a world where Thoroughbreds and foxhunting are passions, not pastimes. Julia finds her own passion in Christian Carver, a talented young horse trainer. But when a beautiful heiress is murdered and Christian is convicted of the crime, a pregnant, desperate Julia marries a friend who offers solace. Now, though blindness darkens her world, it opens her eyes to hidden truths. About her husband, her family, her friends and the man she loved. And as the story starts to emerge, a forgotten memory begins to return, a mystery comes to light…and two lovers torn apart by forces they couldn't control face each other once and for all.
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By Emilie Richards
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneToday, when I think of Fox River and all that happened here so many years ago, I am unwillingly wrapped in shades of green. The fresh, sweet green of pasture deepening toward the horizon, the evergreen of forest shading inevitably to the blue-green of Virginia hills until, at last, mountains merge with a misty sky.
It is the same sky, more or less, that others see. The sky that stretches over California and China and the farthest regions of Antarctica. It is the sky under which I was born, under which I lived the events told in this story. The same sky that sends sun and rain to make the grassy hills of Fox River as verdant, as lush, as any in the world.
But I, Louisa Sebastian, am the only person who sees the proud man silhouetted against this Fox River sky, the man erect on a stallion that no one else will mount, a man so wedded to the horse beneath him that I am reminded of the mythical centaur, and my breath, despite everything I know of him, catches in my chest.
Today, when I am forced to think of the events that happened at Fox River, I am swallowed by shades of green and by the blood that so long ago stained blades of grass a bright and terrible red. In the many years since, the grass has grown and the rain has washed away visible traces of blood,but I know the earth beneath has yet to recover, that if I were to dig in that very place, the dirt beneath my fingernails would be rusty and tainted still.
Had I only known what awaited me as I rode to Fox River that first afternoon, I would have galloped back to my cousin's estate to seclude myself. I would have pleaded illness or injury and asked that my trunks be packed immediately for my return to New York.
But, of course, the future is never ours to know. Only the past is ours to contemplate and mourn forever.
The citizens of Ridge's Race, Virginia, claimed that Maisy Fletcher lived her life like a pack of foxhounds torn between two lines of scent. She had worn many disguises in her fifty years, each of them clearly revealing the flighty, distractible woman beneath. Jake Fletcher, her husband for twenty years, disagreed. Jake claimed that his wife had no trouble making up her mind.
Over and over and over again.
Today, those who knew Maisy would have been shocked to see the purpose in her stride and the lack of attention she paid to everything and everyone that stood between her and the front door of the Gandy Willson Clinic, just outside historic Leesburg. She ignored the horsehead mounting posts flanking the herring-bone brick sidewalk, the magnolias flanking the portico. She paid little attention to the young couple sitting stiffly on a green bench under the magnolia to her left. More tellingly, she brushed right past the young security guard who asked for her identification.
"Ma'am, you can't go in there without my seeing some ID," the young man said, following close at her heels.
Maisy paused just long enough to survey him. He looked like an escapee from the Virginia Military Institute, hair shaved nearly to the scalp, acne scars still faintly visible. He had the same hostile stare she associated with new cadets, a product of exhaustion and harassment.
Normally she might have winked or stopped to question him about his upbringing, his opinion of the Washington Redskins' chances this season, his take on the presidential election. Today she turned her back. "Don't try to stop me, son. I'm as harmless as a butterfly in a hailstorm. Just go on about your business."
"Ma'am, I have to -"
"My daughter's a patient here."
"I'm going to have to call -"
She reached for the door handle and let herself in.
She had never been inside the Gandy Willson Clinic. Through the years, acquaintances had disappeared into its confines for periods of "rest." Some of them boasted of time spent here, adding "G.W.S." after their names like an academic achievement. "G.W.S." or Gandy Willson Survivor, was a local code, meaning "Don't offer me a drink," or "Give me the strongest drink in the house," depending on the length of time out of treatment.
Maisy wasn't surprised by what she saw. Gandy Willson catered to the wealthy elite. The chandelier gracing a cathedral ceiling was glittering crystal, the carpet stretching before her had probably robbed a dozen third world children of a normal adolescence.
The security guard hadn't followed her inside, but another, older, man strode from his office to head her off as she stepped farther into the reception area. He was in his sixties, at least, bespectacled, perfectly tailored and attempting, without success, to smile like somebody's grandfather.
"I don't believe we've met." He extended his hand. "I'm Harmon Jeffers, director of Gandy Willson."
She debated taking it, but gave in when she saw the hand wavering with age. She grasped it to steady him. "I'm Maisy Fletcher, and my daughter Julia Warwick is a patient here."
"Julia's mother. Of course." His unconvincing smile was firmly in place.
There was no "of course" about it. Maisy and Julia were as different from one another as a rose and a hibiscus. For all practical purposes they were members of the same general family, but the resemblance ended there. This month Maisy's hair was red and sadly overpermed. Julia's was always sleek and black. Maisy had gained two unwanted pounds for every year she'd lived. Julia survived on air. Maisy was average height. Petite Julia barely topped her shoulder.
And those were the ways in which they were most alike.
Maisy drew herself up to her full five foot four, as the small of her back creaked in protest. "I'm here to see my daughter."
"Shall we go into my office? I'll have tea sent, and we can chat."
"That's very old Virginia of you, Dr. Jeffers, but I don't think I have the time. I'd appreciate your help finding Julia's room. I hate barging in on strangers."
"We can't let you do that."
"Good. Then you'll tell me where she is?"
"Mrs. Fletcher, it's imperative we talk. Your daughter's recovery depends on it."
Maisy lifted the first of several chins. The others followed sluggishly. "My daughter shouldn't be here."
"You disagree that your daughter needs treatment?"
"My daughter should be at home with the people who love her."
The young couple who'd been sitting on the bench entered and shuffled lethargically across the carpet. He put his hand on Maisy's shoulder to steer her away from the door. "Mrs. Warwick's husband feels differently. He feels she needs to be here, where she can rest and receive therapy every day."
Maisy cut straight to the point, as unusual for her as the anger simmering inside her. "Just exactly how many cases of hysterical blindness have you treated?"
"This is a psychiatric clinic. We -"
"Mostly treat substance abusers," she finished for him. "Drug addicts. Alcoholics. My daughter is neither. But she might be by the time she gets out of here. You'll drive her crazy."
"There are people who will say your daughter is already well on her way." He lifted a bushy white brow in punctuation.
"There is nothing wrong with her eyes, yet she doesn't see. For all practical purposes she's totally blind. Surely you're not trying to tell me this is a normal event?"
Excerpted from Fox River by Emilie Richards Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd. . Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Emilie Richards’s many novels feature complex characterizations and in-depth explorations of social issues. Both are a result of her training and experience as a family counselor, which contribute to her fascination with relationships of all kinds. Emilie and her husband enjoy dividing their time between the Florida Gulf Coast and Chautauqua County, New York. She is currently working on her next novel for MIRA Books.
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